CHURCH leaders have spoken of the “irony” after mindless vandals damaged a priceless 160-year-old window depicting the “sinful” Mary Magdalene who was loved by Jesus despite her wayward past.

Canon Gary Cregeen was horrified to discover the only stained glass window not protected by perspex sheeting had been shattered when he arrived at St George’s in Barrow to conduct a funeral last Thursday.

The vandals had gone to considerable lengths to access the vulnerable window which is around 10 feet above ground and is hidden within a tiny alcove in the church’s grounds.

A padlock on a barbed-wire surrounded gate had been broken and small stones were thrown through the stained glass window which dates back to the church’s construction in 1859.

“It’s in such an obscure place and they’ve had to put some effort into getting to it,” the team rector said.

“It’s just mindless damage and I can’t understand why anyone would choose to do this. The church building and hall are community assets; used by the wider community, not just the church.”

What makes the damage even more galling for the church and its volunteers is that it follows a remarkable fundraising campaign to raise £90,000 to pay for a new heating system which is currently being installed.

The campaign culminated in a ‘gift day’ held last month in which parishioners and members of the community raised a whopping £30,000 in a single day. The church is now tasked with finding an estimated £10,000 to repair the stained glass window and a wall which was also damaged.

“It’s so disappointing for this to have happened after people have been working so hard to improve the facilities here,” the canon added.

“The problem is, it’s not just the physical damage, when this sort of thing happens it knocks people’s confidence and has a psychological impact. For a lot of people this church has a special place in their hearts.”

Despite suggestions to bolster the church’s security, potentially by replacing the original cast-iron decorative railings, church leaders are reluctant for the building to represent “a fortress”.

“This is a community building and what we don’t want to do is put off people coming here and using the facilities,” the canon said.

“Unlike many churches in today’s society the congregation of St George’s is growing and we want to continue to serve the community. This won’t stop us; if anything it will strengthen our resolve to continue to improve the facilities here.”

Anyone with information about the damage can call police on 101.